Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Self-Editing Checklist: Word Choices

Would you believe this is the final installment of our self-editing checklist series?! Whew, we've crammed a lot into our brains, but hopefully our manuscripts are sparkling clean as a result.

Today we're getting down to the nitty gritty details--our word choices. This is the very last step in self-editing, after we've taken care of the big-picture items like plot and structure and medium-picture items like setting details and dialogue.

Specifically, we want to analyze our word choices in the following ways.

1) Do we use words that are understandable? Would the average reader understand them, or would they have to keep a dictionary handy? For more on this topic, including some exercises to strengthen your word choices, check out this post.

2) Do we use words that are vibrant? Do our word choices sparkle with our unique voice and create clear images in the reader's mind? Have we used strong verbs and nouns rather than relying on excessive adjectives and adverbs? For more exercises and tips, visit this post.

3) Have we avoided cliche phrases and descriptions? Hopefully we've eliminated cliche characters and plot lines, but now we want to look at each sentence and eliminate anything that even hints at a cliche, putting our own unique twist on it.

4) Have we eliminated unnecessary words? Rachelle Gardner wrote a blog post a few years ago where she listed actual words to search for and eliminate. Here's the link.

5) Have we read our scenes aloud? Doing this enables us to catch awkward phrasing and word choices, and it helps us create a beautiful flow of words.

Your homework, should you choose to accept it: Analyze each sentence and word choice, weighing their value. Check out Rachelle's blog post, and do a search in your document for certain words that can be eliminated. And finally, read it aloud and listen for those breaks in flow.

So that's it! You've survived the self-editing checklist. Congratulations! :) If you need to go back and revisit certain points, you can find them all together here.

Do you ever read your scenes aloud? What word choices do you tend to get stuck on? Have I missed any important points in my self-editing checklist that you'd like to add?

*Book photo by vichie81 /
**Reading photo by Graur Codrin /


Jessica R. Patch said...

Great post. Thanks for the links. I read my ms aloud. It definitely helps and sometimes I find my characters sigh a lot! LOL

Sarah Forgrave said...

You're welcome, Jessica! And I know what you mean about the sighing thing. *sigh* ;)

Wendy Paine Miller said...

It makes such a difference to read my work aloud. And what a spoil of riches here in this post w/ the links and points!
~ Wendy

Wendy Paine Miller said...

My brain isn't screwed on right yet...too early. Maybe spoil of riches isn't the best word choice. Ha, how fitting! I'll stick with have all those links listed.

Must have more tea!
~ Wendy

Beth K. Vogt said...

You are just all over the Web today! Still need to read your article on UnGrind.
I definitely read my articles/chapters out loud. And I like to have my husband read them. He catches missing words (there's usually at least one of those) and confusing phrasing ... It's always good to have extra eyes on what I write.
And I'm all about "How can I say this with less words?" It's the journalist in me: Write Tight!

Mary Vee Writer said...

More than anything else, I MUST read what I write outloud. Good grief the things I hear and see!

I find gremlin footprints all over my work. That critter creeps into my computer when I'm not looking and invites hords of friends to join his party. They sneak into my document file and change my words, delete good words, stuff useless words here and there, and other gremlin party favorites.

I don't know who that gremlin is but I would be happy if he moved out!!
btw I am not a blameshifter :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

I appreciated the links you threaded in today's post. Each one led me to another with other great information.
Power packed post :)

Sarah Forgrave said...

LOL, Wendy! I can spoil anybody's riches any day of the week. :)

Great advice, Beth, to write tight! And wow, your husband is a hero for reading your work out loud. What a cool thing to do together!

Thanks, Mary! Gremlin it. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

Great tips, Sarah. I reached The End of my current story yesterday and, after taking a few days to muck out my house and distance myself from the story a bit, will be diving into my self edits. I'll be implementing the techniques you mentioned and having fun watching my story improve as I work with those words.

Sarah Forgrave said...

Congratulations on typing The End, Keli!!! And best wishes as you start all over again with the editing process. :)

Author A.O. Peart said...

These are valuable tips.
Thank you for sharing!